Delroy Williams has flown to Zion

by Jun 2, 2024Articles, Obituary

Delroy Williams has flown to Zion
Delroy Williams (1948-2024)

Delroy Williams has flown to Zion where he joins Augustus Pablo and many other reggae greats we’ve lost. The almost forgotten great songwriter and vocalist from the golden era of reggae passed away on Friday, May 31, 2024, at age 75.

Afri-Tones, Mad Lads, High-Lites

Born in 1948 in the Westmoreland Parish, Jamaica, Delroy Williams moved with his mother to Kingston at an early age and stayed there up to the late ’80s when he moved to the US. The Afri-Tones, a trio that included George Allison and Ricky Grant, was the first group he recorded with. They recorded a song titled One For All, All For One for Sonia Pottinger’s High Note label. Ricky Grant re-recorded that song with Delroy Williams on harmony for his LP Poverty People, released in the US in 1981. The group temporarily disbanded and re-united later as the Mad Lads with Shirley Forbes replacing Ricky Grant. They recorded songs such as Ten To One, Mother Nature and You’ll Never Know for Coxsone Dodd at Studio One. But Rastafarian Delroy Williams soon changed their name to The High-Lites.

Solo Career

By the early ’70s, Forbes left the group and Williams embarked on a solo career. He tried his luck recording some material for different producers, but none of these efforts resulted in a successful hit record. The opposite was the case as, at this point, the talented songwriter and singer met only with unfortunate circumstances. Reggae singer and producer Dave Robinson took Delroy to record some songs for his Black Star label which included Let The People, Mr. Hearsay, Marcus Live and Red, Gold And Green In My Garden. The tapes from these recording sessions were given to a producer who proceeded to vanish directly thereafter. It’s never been clarified what happened what happened to the tapes.

Augustus Pablo

However, things changed for the better when he started to hang around Augustus Pablo’s Rockers collective, observing and making friends. It was Ricky Grant who had introduced him to Pablo, who had expressed some interest in taking Delroy into the studio. Delroy felt very comfortable in the Rockers community and patiently waited a year for this to happen. It was in 1976, that he finally went to record, which led to the single I Stand Black. Since then he recorded a number of 7″ and 12″ singles for Pablo and harmonized on many releases by other Rockers artists. In 1982, Delroy Williams’ strong debut LP I Stand Black, recorded at Channel One and Harry J, was released on the Rockers International and Message labels in Jamaica. The album, produced by Pablo and engineered by Sylvan Morris, Barnabas and King Tubby, featured 10 tracks including I Stand Black, Little Less Talking, Mountain Top, Heathen Valley, Crucial, Breaking My Heart, Idren’s Feel Nice, Foxe’s Hole, Jah Children Love and Learn. It then took Delroy and Pablo five years to release his second album, Darkness With Fire. The same year another Delroy Williams album, Two Timer, saw release in the US through Island In The Sun Records. In recent years, Delroy Williams recorded under the alias Putus Roots.

It’s Delroy Williams’ strong vocal style and true-feeling lyrics, which blend so well with Pablo’s eerie, melodic instrumental arrangements, that will always be remembered. Our sincere condolences to his family and friends. Rest in Power.

(Photo: Beth Lesser | Sources: Reggae Quarterly Vol 1. No. 1, Sleeve notes Makasound CD “I Stand Black”, Discogs)

Delroy Williams – Three Men In A Truck Back

Delroy Williams – Think Twice

Delroy Williams – I Stand Black